Not If I See You First
Last school year this scene repeated itself every few weeks. Marissa rarely speaks to me otherwise. I can’t clearly remember what she sounds like without wailing, snuffling, gasping, coughing on tears and snot, and really needing to blow her nose.
It’s a common belief that losing your sight heightens your other senses, and it’s true, but not by magnifying them. It just gets rid of the overwhelming distraction of seeing everything all the time. On the other hand, my experience of sitting with Marissa consisted almost entirely of hearing everything her mouth and nose were capable of in sticky detail. That’s what unrequited love sounds like to me. Disgusting.
“Parker? Can’t you do something?”
“I am. I’m telling you to find someone else.” I pause, per the usual script, so she can interrupt.
I’m the reigning queen of not giving a shit what other people think, but Marissa’s indifference to a Junior Quad full of people—on the first day of school no less—seeing her imitate a shrieking mucus factory … it humbles even me.
“Marissa, listen, soul mates don’t exist. But if they did, they would be two people who want each other. You want Owen, but Owen wants Jasmine, so that means Owen is not your soul mate. You’re just his stalker.”
“Wait … Jasmine?” I enjoy a moment of peace as the surprise of this information, which we told her last spring, quiets her for a moment. “Isn’t she …?”
“Yes, Jasmine likes girls, but she hasn’t found one in particular yet, so Owen stupidly thinks he has a chance. That makes him following her around only slightly more pointless and sad than you following him around. In fact—”
Sarah clicks her tongue and I know what it means but at some speeds I have too much momentum to stop or even slow down.
“—the only thing you and Owen have in common is being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, someone you don’t even know. Have you ever even looked up words like love or soul mate or even relationship in a dictionary?”
The silence that follows is the perfect example of the thing I hate most about being blind: not seeing how people react to what I say.
“But …” Marissa sniffs productively. “If we spent some time togeth—”
Saved by the bell. Her and me both. But mostly her.
“Well, if it isn’t PG-13 and her All-Seeing-Eye-Dog.” The familiar screech is to my left and accompanied by a locker door clattering open.
“Please tell me her locker isn’t right over there,” I say to Sarah in a stage whisper. “I found out over the summer I’m allergic to PVP. Now I have to carry an EpiPen in my bag.”
“Oh,” Faith says in her snippy voice. “I’m PVP? That’s … People … People …”
“Polyvinylpyrrolidone. Used in hair spray, hair gel, glue sticks, and plywood.”
“Well, I think PVP means People … who are … Very Popular.”
I laugh, breaking character. “Fay-Fay! Did you just think that up?”
“Of course I did! I’m not as dumb as you look.”
The odor of kiwi-strawberry tells me what’s about to happen and I brace myself. I’d call it a bear hug except Faith is too skinny to do anything bearish. I hold on a bit too long and then let go.
“Do you really have an EpiPen?” she asks.
“God, Fay,” Sarah says. “Do you even know what that is?”
“My nephew’s allergic to peanuts. And do you know you’re a pretentious, condescending bitch?”
“Yes, I doooof!” The rush of air and Sarah’s answer tells me Faith gave her a hug, too.
“Can you believe all these strangers?” Faith says, making no attempt to whisper. “This place is a zoo.”
“At least it’s them invading us,” Sarah says, “and not the other way around.”
All true. The town of Coastview can’t support two high schools anymore, so Jefferson closed and everyone came here to Adams. The halls are so jammed with people who don’t know The Rules, and not just the freshmen, that I had to hold on to Sarah’s arm to get through the chaos to my locker. Breaking in this many newbies will be messy, but at least I don’t have to learn the layout of an entirely different school.
“Oh, hey, here comes another one,” Faith says, closer and softer, this time remembering Rule Number Two, and she hugs me again. “I’m sorry I was stuck in Vermont all summer. You know I’d have come if I could, don’t you?”
“I’m fine,” I say quickly, hoping that will end the subject.
“Did I see you guys talking to Marissa this morning? Was she crying?”
“New year, same bullshit,” Sarah says.
“Please tell me it’s over a new guy. Really? No …”
I imagine various facial expressions and nods and eyebrow waggling filling in the gaps.
“That’s what you spent the morning talking about? Pretty selfish of her … Wait.” I can hear that Faith has turned to face me. “Does she even know? Didn’t you tell her?”
“Right,” I say. “Oh, Marissa, while you spent the summer crying over some complete stranger, my dad died and my aunt’s family moved here because my house is better than theirs.”
“So …” Faith says. “That’s something you just thought, or you actually said that?”
“Jesus, Fay. I’m honest but I’m not mean.”
“Some exceptions apply,” Sarah says.
“I have to go.” I unfold my cane. “With all these noobs in the way, it’s going to take a while to get to Trig.”
“Haven’t they assigned her a new buddy?” Faith asks Sarah as I tap down the hall. “Who is it? Didn’t Petra move to Colorado or somewhere?”
I’m grateful they can talk about my buddy without sounding awkward. It can’t be one of them—Faith is too busy socially (translation: popular) and Sarah doesn’t qualify because she’s not taking enough of my honors and AP classes. But there’s a girl from Jefferson who’s in all my classes, and she was willing, so the choice pretty much made itself.
As soon as I settle into my usual seat for every class—in the back right corner and reserved for me with a name card—it starts.
“So you’re blind, huh?”
I cock my head toward the unfamiliar male voice, coming from the seat directly in front of me. Low-pitched, a bit thick around the vowels. The voice of a jock, but I just keep that as a working hypothesis awaiting more evidence.
“Are you sure you’re in the right class?” I say. “Calculus for Geniuses is down the hall. This is just Trig.”
“I guess you’re in Kensington’s class? Isn’t it kinda early for this?”